NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace has insisted that the rope knot found in his garage was a ‘straight-up noose’ and said he was ‘p****d’ with his critics after the FBI said there was no evidence of a hate crime.
Wallace, the only full-time black driver on NASCAR’s top circuit, said he was ‘mad because people are trying to test my character and integrity’ after investigators said the ‘noose’ was a door handle which had been there since last October.
A Youtube video from 2019 showed a pull rope featuring a noose hanging from the garage door in the same stall used by Wallace and his team at the Talladega Superspeedway earlier this week. At the time the video was taken, that specific stall was being used by a white driver, Paul Menard.
The 26-year-old accepted that he may not have been the target, as had been feared after his vocal support of removing the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks in the wake of recent anti-racism protests.
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace (pictured at Talladega Superspeedway on Monday) has insisted that the rope knot found in his garage was a ‘straight-up noose’
A Youtube video from 2019 showed a pull rope featuring a noose (circled) hanging from the garage door in the same stall used by Wallace and his team at Talladega earlier this week. At the time the video was taken, it was being used by a white driver, Paul Menard
The FBI’s statement on Tuesday revealed that 15 federal agents had investigated Wallace’s claim after the alleged noose was found.
A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports had discovered the noose on Sunday at the Alabama race track.
The image of a noose recalls the lynching of black Americans in decades gone by and authorities investigated it as a possible hate crime.
However, the FBI stated that ‘the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019’, long before the recent protests.
‘Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,’ the statement said, saying that ‘no federal crime’ had been committed.
‘The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws,’ the statement concluded.
‘We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.’
NASCAR released its own statement referring to the ‘noose’ as a ‘garage door pull rope’ and accepted the FBI’s finding that ‘this was not an intentional, racist act’.
‘For us in NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,’ NASCAR president Steve Phelps said Tuesday after the FBI findings were announced, according to ESPN.
‘This is … disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, that there was not a hate crime.
‘I do want to make sure everyone understands that, if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us on late Saturday afternoon, we would do the same thing. We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It’s not part of who we are as a sport.’
Bubba Wallace and his girlfriend Amanda Carter stand on the grid ahead of a previous NASCAR event in Florida
A noose was found in the garage being used by NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace Sunday but the FBI said that its investigation had found the rope was attached to the garage door since at least Fall 2019. Wallace is the only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level
NASCAR drivers push the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, driven by Bubba Wallace, to the front of the grid as a sign of solidarity with the driver Monday after a noose was found in his garage. The FBI announced Tuesday the rope had been there since at least last Fall and that no charges would be filed as there was no evidence a hate crime was committed
However, Wallace told presenter Don Lemon that ‘from the evidence that we have, that I have, it’s a straight-up noose’.
Wallace said he was ‘p****d’ by social media comments suggesting he had somehow fabricated the incident, stressing he had already left the garage when someone else spotted the noose.
The driver said he was ‘mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity’.
‘They’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re just trying to test that,’ he said.
‘The image I’ve seen of what was hanging in my garage was not a garage pull,’ he said.
‘I have been racing all my life, we have raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that.’
Referring to the announcement of an investigation into the presence of the rope and the condemnation by the NASCAR leadership, the racer added, ‘The FBI has stated it was a noose over and over again. The NASCAR leadership has stated it was a noose. I can confirm that,’ he said.
Nascar said in a statement released Tuesday that it was ‘thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba’ and thanked the FBI for their investigation
Bubba Wallace takes a selfie with himself and other drivers that pushed his car to the front in the pits Monday in an act of solidarity with NASCAR’s only Black driver
‘I actually got evidence of what was hanging in my garage, over my car, around my pit crew guys, to confirm that it was a noose. And never seen anything like it.
‘I talked to my crew chief about it. I wanted to make sure we weren’t jumping the gun.
‘I said “this isn’t a knot?” He said, “Bubba, this isn’t something that can be done within a second of just tying a knot and being on the way. This is something that took time.”
Asked by Lemon if he believed it was directed at him, an irate Wallace added: ‘It was a noose. It was a noose whether it was tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose.
‘So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose, that is what I am saying.’
Lemon said earlier in the interview that Wallace had handled the situation ‘like a champ’ and thanked the driver for speaking on air about his ordeal.
The interviewer also advised Wallace not to look at social media.
‘I know. I’m trying hard not to. And the I’ll probably turn my phone off tonight, he replied.
‘But to hear my side of the story and I don’t mean to steal your spotlight. My side needs to be heard.’
Lemon also reassured Wallace that only ‘knuckleheads’ would accuse him of having somehow staged or set up the presence of the rope.
‘Fair minded people are not accusing you of doing anything wrong. You were reacting to what NASCAR, what the head of NASCAR told you happened,’ he said.
‘Listen, this is how I feel about it. People can think what they want. Did NASCAR get it wrong?
‘I shouldn’t say that. Did they jump the gun maybe, yes. I am extremely happy with what I think most Americans are, what NASCAR is doing.’
He added that the driver ‘had the support of team members and NASCAR’ and he should ‘pick up and go on and continue to do what you are doing.’
Wallace answered: ‘I know. I’m with you on that. I appreciate the words.
‘You talked about it earlier, the people who don’t want to hear the truth and — people that want to know me and get to know me the new fans in the sport I appreciate it.
‘One thing you’ll never take away from me is how 100 per cent I am. How raw and real I am. I’ll shoot it straight each and every time. That’s what I stand by.
‘In my statement Sunday night this will not break me. None of the allegations of being a hoax will break me or tear me down.
‘That only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up and get on the track next week and showcase what I can do behind the wheel under tremendous amounts of BS.
‘Whatever it is you want to say. It won’t break me or tear me down. I will stand proud of where I’m at.’
A weather-delayed race on Monday turned into a mass show of support as drivers closed ranks around Wallace.
He was visibly moved before the start as his fellow drivers rallied behind him at the starting line.
Multiple drivers and crew then joined forces to push Wallace’s No.43 car to the front of the grid.
Nascar drivers Kyle Busch, left, and Corey LaJoie, right, join other drivers and crews as they push the car of Bubba Wallace to the front of the field. It came after one of Wallace’s team found a noose in his garage Sunday but the FBI has now deemed it a misunderstanding and that a garage door pull down rope fashioned as a noose had been in the garage since last Fall
NASCAR had announced on June 10 that the presence of the Confederate flag at its events was ‘contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans’.
Wallace had campaigned for the flag’s removal after the worldwide anti-racism protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
The series first tried to ban the Confederate flag five years ago but did nothing to enforce the order.
The Talladega event marked the first race since the coronavirus pandemic began that fans were permitted – 5,000 were allowed to purchase tickets – and some upset with the flag ban paraded past the main entrance with the Southern symbol.
A banner flew over the speedway Sunday of a Confederate flag that read ‘Defund NASCAR’
Wallace after the race went to the fencing along the grandstands and greeted supporters.
‘The sport is changing,’ he said.
‘The prerace deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters, from drivers to crew members, everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out. This is truly incredible, and I’m glad to be a part of this sport.’
Team owner Richard Petty, right, stands with driver Bubba Wallace prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, Monday
NASCAR drivers push the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, driven by Bubba Wallace, to the front of the grid as a sign of solidarity with the driver, who had pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag in its venues less than two weeks ago which left some fans unhappy
Bubba Wallace was overcome with emotion as he sat in his car prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series race on Monday, a day after it was thought a noose was found in his garage